I guess the point of transparent leaders is to create and sustain a transparent culture. Well, that’s easier said than done, especially in light of the experts on the subject. Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman and Patricia Ward Biederman wrote a book called Transparency: Creating a Culture of Candor and also co-authored an article in a recent issue of Leader to Leader about Creating a Transparent Culture.
In that article, they define transparency as “the free flow of information within an organization and between the organization and its many stakeholders, including the public. For any institution, the flow of information is akin to the activity of a central nervous system: the organization’s effectiveness depends on it. An organization’s capacity to compete, solve problems, innovate, meet challenges, and achieve goals—its intelligence, if you will—varies to the degree that the flow of information remains healthy. That is particularly true when the information in question consists of crucial but hard-to-take facts, the information that leaders may bristle at hearing—and that subordinates too often, and understandably, play down, disguise, or ignore. For information to flow freely within an institution, followers must feel free to speak openly, and leaders must welcome such openness.”
However, I love that they model transparency by telling the truth we all know and have observed, which is that “claiming to be transparent is not the same as actually being transparent. Even as many heads of corporations and even of states boast about their commitment to transparency, the containment of truth continues to be a dearly held value of many organizations.”